It’s been an adventurous place to live with frequent plumbing and electrical problems. And it’s been an all around adjustment to fit into a smaller space. My “office” is now a desk that sits conveniently in the pathway between the family room and the kitchen/dining room.
We complain a lot about the house. And we debate how much longer to live here. Three years? One year? Two weeks? But the truth is that I love this house. And I don’t think we’ll ever be happier as a family as we are here.
The house is in a wonderful and safe neighborhood. Our neighbors are friendly and support one another. And we have trees and ponds all over the neighborhood so that our daily life is full of the sights and sounds of squirrels, doves, owls, frogs, finches, ducks, and all sorts of creeping, crawling things.
We have been here exactly a year now. In that time, our two kids have learned more than ever before about the value of hard work. We’ve spent dozens of weekends painting, pruning, cleaning, and weeding. Whereas before we lived in nicer places with little improvement to be done, the kids can now look around them and take pride in an environment that they helped improve.
As Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are specifically directed to “bloom where we are planted.” Instead of trying to find the best environment for ourselves, we’re asked to bring our talents and hard work into whatever environment we find ourselves.
Stanley Ellis explained this principle in the April 2013 General Conference: "One thing we have often been taught is to bloom where we are planted. Yet sometimes we are tempted to migrate to some new area, thinking our children will have more friends and therefore better youth programs. Brothers and sisters, do we really think the critical factor in the salvation of our children is the neighborhood where we live? The apostles and prophets have often taught that what happens inside the home is far more important than what our children encounter outside. How we raise or children is more important that where we raise them."
The move we made last year was tough. We decided to get ahead financially. We were sick of student loans and other debts hanging over us. We were sick of minimum payments. We were sick of not saving money for a rainy day. And we realized the truth of Dave Ramsey’s popular quote: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” (Although our favorite quote is actually, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”)
But the move was hard. Downsizing was hard. Finding a place to put things has been a challenge. Asking the kids to start over in a new neighborhood with a new church congregation and new schools has been daunting.
So despite the fact that we paid off both cars and closed out all consumer debt and despite the fact that we now have rapidly growing savings and college funds and despite the fact that we love our new neighborhood and church congregation and schools...despite all that, we frequently wonder if we’ve done the wrong thing for our kids and if they’re going to be OK living here.
Yesterday we spent the day in the yard. We cleaned out our still unfinished greenhouse and put down top soil and manure. We planted tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and some herbs. We hung a new birdhouse and put out some bird food and squirrel food. We also made a camp fire to cook hamburgers while we worked.
At one point, as we were sitting by the fire, looking at the stars, and listening to the frogs, Olivia turned to me and said, “I sure love living in this house.” I thought about all the work she’d done right in the spot we were sitting, where together we had pulled the old turf, placed paver stones, laid the new sod, and watered and weeded ever since. I thought of the peace of mind we had from living within our means. And I thought of the amazing new friends we’d all made at church and school.
“Me too,” I said. And, maybe for the first time in the year we’ve been here, I really meant it.